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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

BU: Etiology of Uterine Fibroids Still Largely a Mystery

More research is needed into the etiology of uterine fibroids, including studies that clarify the role of estrogen and progesterone and that identify risk factors, according to a literature review led by a Boston University School of Public Health (BUSPH) researcher.

Writing in the journal Clinical Obstetrics and Gynecology, Dr. Lauren Wise, professor of epidemiology at BUSPH, and co-author Dr. Shannon Laughlin-Tommaso of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the Mayo Clinic, review published studies and call for further research into the causes of uterine fibroids to help guide prevention strategies.

While uterine fibroids are benign growths and often asymptomatic, they also can cause excessive menstrual bleeding, pelvic pain, infertility, and other symptoms that adversely affect a woman’s quality of life. They account for nearly 40 percent of all hysterectomies among women 18 to 44 years old, at an estimated $9.4 billion in annual healthcare costs.

According to Dr. Wise and Dr. Laughlin-Tommaso, studies have found that rates of fibroids tend to increase with age through the reproductive years and decline after menopause. Fibroids are two to three times more common among black women than white women, yet identified risk factors have not been able to explain this racial disparity.

“Uterine fibroids are the most common diagnosis among inpatient hospitalizations for gynecologic conditions of women in childbearing years, and they disproportionately affect black women. Greater research is needed about why they grow and how to prevent them,” says Dr. Wise. She said there have been relatively few studies “identifying opportunities for primary prevention.”

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